The three major U.S. credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – have made their offer of free weekly credit reports to consumers permanent. The reports, available on AnnualCreditReport.com, are being made available to all Americans to “empower consumers to more regularly review their credit history and better understand their financial data,” the companies announced in a statement.
The free weekly reports began in April 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. The service was initially in place for a year, but it had been extended several times since then. Most recently, in September 2023, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion made the service permanent.
Before the pandemic, you could get one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit bureau. Lenders and online credit education tools often provide free reports on demand as well.
What do you need to know about free weekly credit reports from the major bureaus, and what should you look for in your reports?
Should You Still Check Your Credit Report Regularly?
“With so many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, it’s understandable that some may have missed payments or even had an account go to collections,” says Beverly Harzog, bestselling author, credit card expert and consumer finance analyst at U.S. News. “If this has happened to you, check your credit report to make sure any negative items on your report are accurate.”
Check your financial accounts online each day, Harzog says, and use the free weekly credit reports if you’re worried about accurate reporting. “A late payment, for example, will stay on your report for seven years,” she says. “It should fall off your report automatically, but it’s important that you follow up to confirm the removal.”
Lenders and others review your credit report to determine your creditworthiness for a loan or an apartment or even whether you’re hired for a job.
What Should You Do With Your Free Credit Reports?
You’ll want to review your free credit report for areas you can improve and for mistakes. Here’s what to check:
- Basic information, such as your name and address. An incorrect variation of your name or an address where you never lived could indicate fraud.
- Your accounts. An account that you don’t know about under your name is a red flag.
- The payment history on your accounts.
If you find a mistake, contact the credit bureau that reported the information and the creditor for the account. You will have to contact each credit bureau separately to dispute information in your credit report.
“Make sure you monitor your credit score as well so you get a comprehensive view of your credit status,” Harzog says.
Should You Check Your Credit Weekly?
You can check your credit every week, but do you really need to? It depends on your financial situation.
“Anyone going through a divorce or who has been a fraud victim needs to be extra-vigilant,” Harzog says. “If you’re unable to pay your bills and you have an accommodation in place, then check your reports weekly to make sure your account is still listed in good standing. Lenders could make mistakes.”
For everyone else, Harzog recommends checking your report every three or four months.
“One of the best ways to catch identity theft is to review your list of credit accounts on your credit report,” Harzog says. “If you see an account you didn’t open, that’s a sign of fraud and you need to take action immediately.”
Harzog says it’s important to look for fraud because it can bring down your score unnecessarily and prevent you from getting credit in the event you need it.
How Can You Get Your Free Credit Reports?
You can go online, call or send a form in the mail to get your credit reports. Here’s how you can obtain a report, no matter which way your prefer.
Website: Visit AnnualCreditReport.com and enter the required personal information, including your Social Security number and birthdate. You can print copies right away.
Toll-free number: Call 877-322-8228 to have your reports mailed to you.